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Forskningsartikel2008Vetenskapligt granskad

Rearing conditions, morbidity and breeding performance in dairy heifers in southwest Sweden

Hultgren, Jan; Svensson, Catarina; Maizon, Daniel O.; Oltenacu, Pascal A.


We carried out a longitudinal study of 122 dairy herds in southwest Sweden to investigate relationships of rearing conditions and health with heifer breeding performance and to estimate the incidence of clinical diseases and survival until 1st calving. A total of 3081 animals born in 1998 (47% Swedish Red 50% Swedish Holstein breed) were followed from birth until calving, culling or death. Information about housing, management, breeds and dates of birth, breeding and calving was obtained from farmers. Diseases were recorded by farmers and veterinarians; antibiotic treatment was used in < 25% of all cases.Median time to breeding was 17.5 months, 64% of all heifers bred by AI conceived at 1st breeding, and median time to calving was 27.6 months. Age at 1st breeding (log-transformed), conception at 1st breeding(binary), and age at 1st calving (log-transformed) were analysed with three mixed models, accounting for clustering by considering random-intercept and random-slope effects at the herd level. Around 40 potential predictors or confounders were recorded and considered for modelling. Time to breeding and calving increase greatly with the time heifers spend grazing, although up to 5 months of grazing before 1st calving appears to be more favourable than no grazing at all. The effect of grazing differs depending on the season of birth. Zero-grazed heifers calve 20% later if exposed to indoor ammonia concentrations > 10 ppm after start of breeding. There is considerable variation between herds in breeding performance, except for conception at 1st breeding-limiting the potential for improving conception by herd measures.Observed total disease incidence rate was 14 per 100 animal-years from 7 months of age to estimated conception and 4.7 per 100 animal-years from conception to calving, with great variation between herds. Infectious diseases were predominant, and diarrhoea, respiratory disease and ringworm were the most common diagnoses. Eight hundred and fifty-three heifers left the study before calving, due to herd exits (incidence risk 0.073%), selling off live (0.061%), spontaneous deaths (0.050%) or slaughter (0.092%). (c) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Dairy cattle; Disease incidence; Morbidity; Breeding performance; Rearing; Replacement heifer; Survival

Publicerad i

Preventive Veterinary Medicine
2008, Volym: 87, nummer: 3-4, sidor: 244-260 Utgivare: ELSEVIER SCIENCE BV